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That Time You Ceased to Exist--How to measure a year in the life of a blog or any work

11/07/18


This week marks my “blogiversary” – 52 weeks of “That Times You” and 52 weeks of reflections on surviving myself. Total confusion led me to the start of this weekly blog. I had sort of fallen apart and then landed here. But, I’m beginning to see that maybe that’s just how life works – life, time and a year.


I was in the midst of a rebirth – a resurfacing of that messy, mashed up spirit, the spunk I thought I’d lost in my thirties – when the idea of this blog was plopped on me. I was advised against it, believe it or not. A literary agent and some friends claimed that it might distract me from my manuscript in progress and that once again I’d find myself clawing my way out of something that got control of me rather than me of it. But, if I was clawing, at least I was living. I had spent enough of adulthood in patches of existence – that spectrum in which day to day steals our power. I had to once and for all beat existence and survive me and everything I do to convince myself I’ve got it all wrong.


Thus, a blog was born.


Just like some days in the year of a life, some blogs have been better than others. Some did well and some fell flat no matter how eloquent. But like our own lives and our life’s work, if this blog simply existed, it wouldn’t matter how much of me I gave it.  To breathe, it needs everything – the natural beauty and the downright revolting nature of living. Somewhere between the two, beauty and revolting, life is sorted and life is measured. At least that’s how I’m understanding it a year later.


A year ago, I worried how it would look to others to try something new. A year later, I know how it looked didn’t matter. What mattered was that I did something at all. A year ago, I worried if my voice would connect. A year later, I still worry, but I know that my voice is my voice. Faking it just isn’t an option anymore. A year ago, I wondered if this blog would lead to anything. A year later, I know that even if it just becomes a vacuum of my thoughts, a loser on the eighth page of a Google search, the exercise of meaningful work woke me from mere existence.


Each weekly blog is a therapy session where you, the readers, just happen to be present. It’s like that time I gave birth to my oldest child with a room full of nursing students taking notes. It wasn’t a tidy class wrapped neatly in a baby blue bow. The miracle of life is gross and messy, as is this avenue through my psyche that you’re gracious enough to trust my invitation onto. Some weeks are tidy. Some weeks it’s like I smeared my heart across the text. So, too, is a year where seasons and phases, both planned and unexpected, pull us to something that feels out of our control – an end maybe? Or a new beginning? Wherever we land, whether soft or a face plant, we can either exist there or live, even if it hurts.


This is where I find myself a year later.


A year ago, my father was healthy. Moments with him were etched with laughter. A year ago, my kids were littler and more innocent. No one played Fortnite. A year ago, middle age seemed far off. I felt closer to my teens than my forties. A year ago, I was so dumbly ignorant of time. But haven’t I been before? When college came to a close, when my babies started kindergarten, as summers ended, and now again. It’s like I keep coming back to the same lesson that I thought I’d learned already. I had the truth on lockdown, but how much do we ever really know?


We only know enough to know, and each time that we come back to the same lesson, we know a little more. It’s like my sister, Liz, always says, who I think got it from Mom, who either read it in a book she doesn’t remember or just made it up herself: “When we look at the front of a tapestry, it’s beautiful and detailed. It all makes sense. When we step around to the back of the tapestry, it’s a bunch of knots and strings and doesn’t look like a picture at all. Many times life on this side of the veil looks like the back of a tapestry. Someday we’ll see the front and it will all make sense.”  


One day, I’ll know more.


For now, I know enough to know that I’ve never needed all the answers no matter how badly I thought I did, no matter how badly I do now. What I do need is to remember to live as I learn deeper, as I take chances, and while good work leads me to living and opens the door to more life. As I stumble, when I start over again and again, what I need is to feel the struggles and survive them, to cry hard and then to laugh even harder. I need to live beyond the existence of all I fear.


It’s been a year in the life of a blog – a year of lessons, of time to sort, of time to measure – and a year of living through it, not just existing alongside it.


**Many thanks to everyone at Renaissance Publishing, who helped bring this blog to life, especially Todd Matherne, Kelly Massicot and Melanie Warner Spencer. And unending thanks to God’s gift to proofreaders, Mary Argus, who makes sense of this life.**


Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.

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Annie D. Stutley

the short story

Back in 2017, “That Time You” took its first steps—a blog that humorously and inspiringly chronicled the chaos of everyday life. It was a canvas for what I referred to as “gaffes with glory” (what others may call hot mess success tales) and also resolutions for how to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges, plus personal victories within the daily hustle. I've never had all the answers, and truth be told, I still don't. Yet, I spoke the language of the Hot Mess and Walking Disaster, understanding that we don't need to have it all figured out or succeed at everything to truly grasp our purpose.

However, 2021 brought a drastic turn: I faced a Stage 3 cancer diagnosis and tragically lost my mother during my sixth round of chemotherapy. My path forward seemed impossible. Stumbling took on a whole new weight—it became a burden I struggled to carry in a place where trust felt elusive. “That Time You” evolved at that point because I evolved. Stripped of my plans and the future I had envisioned, I found solace in my one constant: my faith.

Since surviving cancer (and the loss of a parent for the second time in a two-year period), I transitioned into a full-time editing role and also poured my energy into contributing monthly to three different magazines. “That Time You” was put on a purposeful pause—two years for recovery, rediscovery, and revision. I'm gearing up for a relaunch. This time around, whatever I share with you will be rooted in the wealth of experiences I’ve gained over the past three years, because sometimes stumbling becomes an essential part of our path, forcing us to dust off our fuzzy socks and bravely venture forward, wiser.

“That Time You” lives on, on this site, and I do promise to continue to share my misadventures with meaning and celebrate blunders alongside triumphs. Yet, I’ll be chronicling the certain enlightenment amidst life's darkness—a testament to faith and, hopefully, a guide for uncovering God's presence in every situation, whether it's the mundane or the profoundly challenging.

 

Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Much love,

Annie

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